Opinion: Obama did hedge his Iraq war opposition at times


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Barack Obama has made a lot about his outspoken opposition to the Iraq war, even before it started. And he has used his opponents’ initial votes in support of the war against them frequently as proof that he has the judgment to be president.

On Sunday’s ‘Meet the Press’ interrogation, host Tim Russert quizzed the Illinois senator closely on a number of apparent inconsistencies between his actions and stated positions -- taking state lobbyists’ contributions while criticizing federal lobbyists’ contributions to his opponents, and not releasing documents, schedules, memos, etc., from his days as an Illinois state senator while criticizing Hillary Clinton for not releasing papers from her White House years.

Russert also inquired about inconsistent quotes by Obama about the Iraq war, leading to this exchange:


RUSSERT: You were not in the Senate in October of 2002. You did give a speech opposing the war. But Sen. Clinton’s campaign will say since you’ve been a senator there’s been no difference in your record. And other critics will say that you’ve not been a leader against the war, and they point to this: In July of ‘04, Barack Obama, “I’m not privy to Senate intelligence reports. What would I have done? I don’t know,” in terms of how you would have voted on the war. And then this: “There’s not much of a difference between my position on Iraq and George Bush’s position at this stage.” That was July of ’04. And this: “I think” there’s “some room for disagreement in that initial decision to vote for authorization of the war.” It doesn’t seem that you are firmly wedded against the war, and that you left some wiggle room that, if you had been in the Senate, you may have voted for it.

OBAMA: Now, Tim, that first quote was made with an interview with a guy named Tim Russert on ‘Meet the Press’ during the (2004 Democratic National) convention when we had a nominee for the presidency and a vice president, both of whom had voted for the war. And so it probably was the wrong time for me to be making a strong case against our party’s nominees’ decisions when it came to Iraq.

But wait. Wasn’t it Obama who’s been criticizing other Democrats, specifically Clinton, for triangulation, calculating quotes and saying different things to different audiences to avoid alienating any potential voters?

-- Andrew Malcolm